Lilyhammer starring Steven Van Zandt PREVIEW

Witness protection is a dish best served cold for Frank Tagliano – in Norway. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC4: starts Tuesday, 11 September, 10pm

Story: New York Mafia member Frank Tagliano agrees to testify against his new boss when he thinks that he has been overlooked for promotion – on condition that he is relocated with a new identity in the FBI’s witness protection programme and asks to be sent to Lillehammer, Norway.

The Mafia genre meets Nordic noir in this offbeat crime mashup – the first original series made by Netflix and being shown on UK terrestrial TV by BBC4.

Steven Van Zandt – right-hand man of two Bosses, Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano – here cashes in on his Sopranos persona as Frank The Fixer Tagliano, New York mobster.

Frank and Lily, before the tragedy

When a rival tries to shoot Frank in his bar, during which Frank’s beloved dog Lily is slain, the gangster decides to rat on those behind the attempted hit. When the Feds ask where he wants to be relocated for his witness protection, he says Lillehammer. ‘Lille-what?’ says the agent. The show’s title, by the way, is a play on the departed dog’s name.

94 Winter Olympics
Culture clash doesn’t quite cover just how quirky this show is. Frank fancies Lillehammer because he remembers the 94 Winter Olympics there, how beautiful it looked and all the pretty girls.

The premise is pretty daffy, but it does allow for plenty of fun in the plot. So, the criminal finds himself living next door to the local chief of police, but this doesn’t stop him importing some tried and tested methods of extortion and bribery. It seems like Mafia business as usual when Frank finds a sheep’s head outside his house on day one.

Local cops Laila Hovland and Geir 'Elvis' Tvedt
Local cops Laila Hovland and Geir ‘Elvis’ Tvedt 

The opener of this eight-part series involves Frank – new name Giovanni, ‘Call me Joe’ – in an illegal wolf hunt, as well as dealing with lairy youths on a train, and a nutty job centre employee who uses a ventriloquist’s dummy to demonstrate interview techniques to the unemployed.

Love is in the air
Which Frank is, with the job centre weirdo offering him a job as a pizza delivery guy at Dolly Dimples on arrival. However, Frank is way too resourceful to re-start life at the bottom and has himself set up quite nicely by episode two. There even seems to be the chance of romance in the frosty air.

It’s hard to dislike this riff on a mobster fish out of water story, and certainly it went down a snowstorm in Norway, where 20 percent of the population tuned in.

A second season has been commissioned, though Van Zandt’s touring commitments have held up production. Certainly, the Boss himself is right behind Little Stevie’s latest acting project, as Springsteen’s musical tribute to the series, given on tour in Oslo, reveals in the video below.

Cast: Steven Van Zandt Frank Tagliano, Anne Katharine Krigsvoll Laila Hovland, Marian Saastad Ottesen Sigrid Haugli, Steinar Sagen Roar Lien, Fridtjob Saheim Jan Johansen, Kyrre Hellum Geir ‘Elvis’ Tvedt, Trond Fausa Aurvag Torgeir Lien

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